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May 7th, 2010
School principal sets Civil Rights and Segregation back 56 years.

On May 17, 1954, the law was changed. In the landmark Supreme Court decision of Brown v. Board of Education, the Supreme Court overturned the Plessy v. Ferguson decision by ruling that segregation was "inherently unequal." Although the Brown v. Board of Education was specifically for the field of education, the decision had a much broader scope.

Although the Brown v. Board of Education decision overturned all the segregation laws in the country, the enactment of integration was not immediate. In actuality, it took many years, much turmoil, and even bloodshed to integrate the country.

Now, one Ann Arbor, MI school principal is single handedly responsible for undoing all that work...

The Ann Arbor school district is investigating the actions - and legality - surrounding a field trip organized exclusively for black students at Dicken Elementary School last week.

The controversy centers on the African American Lunch Bunch, a group school officials say was formed out of the school improvement team process that looked at who was struggling academically at the school.  That group, which is made up of only black students, was taken out of school last week on a school district bus to hear the speaker.

Superintendent Todd Roberts said the idea to take 30 black students to hear a special presentation by a black University of Michigan scientist was well-intentioned. But Roberts conceded the execution of that trip and its aftermath might not have been appropriate.  Principal Mike Madison has been the subject of complaints by parents.

“The desire to have kids see a role model and be exposed to that was good,” Roberts said. “It may have been helpful to have that person come to the school so everyone could participate. Our goal is not to be left out. I don’t think the goal was to exclude.”

Madison, who is black, defended the trip in a letter to parents earlier this week.

“In hindsight, this field trip could have been approached and arranged in a better way," Madison wrote. "But as I reflect upon the look of excitement, enthusiasm and energy that I saw in these children’s eyes as they stood in the presence of a renowned African American rocket scientist in a very successful position, it gave the kids an opportunity to see this type of achievement is possible for even them.

“The intent of our field trip was not to segregate or exclude students as has been reported, but rather to address the societal issues, roadblocks and challenges that our African American children will face as they pursue a successful academic education here in our community.”

Not everyone was swayed by his letter.

“Here’s my problem with it. It’s illegal for them to run a black-only or white-only event,” said Rachel Loge, who is white and has two grandsons at Dicken. “Why wouldn’t my grandsons be inspired to do better in school after hearing a cool presentation on being a scientist?”

Michigan voters passed a law in 2006 that bars school districts, among other public institutions, from discriminatory or preferential treatment on the basis of race or other factors.
Superintendent Todd Roberts said the district is looking into the actions and legality of the field trip for black Dicken students.


Several parents have written letters to complain to Roberts, Madison and board members, alleging that after the trip, students who didn’t get to go booed their fellow fifth-graders who were on the trip. The parents allege Madison then came into the classroom and harangued the students.

District officials said that’s not the case and called Madison “passionate” in his discussion with the students about race.

School board member Christine Stead said she’s hoping to find out more about what transpired.

“The intent of the program seems to be in line with what we expect,” said Stead, noting she understands the frustrations of parents whose students weren’t on the trip. “We need to look at how things were communicated and the issue of students going out versus the speaker coming in.”

District administrators said the intent of the program was to work in a mentoring relationship with black students to help boost their achievement. They said it was part of the district’s work to combat the achievement gap, which in Ann Arbor is commonly referred to in terms of the difference in test scores, grade-point average, discipline and graduation rates between white and black students.

(CLICK HERE, full story) 



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